The results of the 2021 observation surveys measuring seatbelt wearing rates and illegal mobile phone use in Parkes, Forbes and Condobolin are in and … it's a mixed bag.
Illegal mobile phone use improved 2% during the year, with just 13 people observed using a mobile phone in the latest survey, that's a decrease of 85 people from the previous survey.
The seatbelt wearing rate decreased 3%, with 84 people observed not wearing a seatbelt in the latest survey.
Parkes, Forbes and Lachlan Shire Councils' Road Safety and Injury Prevention Officer, Melanie Suitor, said that the observation surveys are conducted bi-annually and aim to measure, monitor and improve local seatbelt wearing rates and the number of drivers complying with mobile phone legislation.
"There is an urban and highway location in each town with survey staff conducting the observations for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon at both locations.
"The observation surveys give us a really good insight into current local driver and passenger behaviour. It's great to see that the mobile phone usage rate has improved, but the decrease in the seatbelt wearing rate is disappointing.
"In 2021, we celebrated 50 years since the compulsory seatbelt wearing laws were introduced in NSW. Despite this, each year there are on average more than 30 people killed and 220 people injured who were not wearing the available seatbelt. Many of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented if seatbelts had been used.
"Using a mobile phone can cause drivers to take their eyes off the road, their hands off the steering wheel, and their minds off the road and the surrounding situation. Evidence shows this distraction can impair driving performance in a number of ways - longer reaction times, impaired ability to keep in the correct lane and shorter following distances - to name a few.
"The best advice when you are driving is to put your mobile phone on silent or activate the 'Do Not Disturb While Driving' function on your phone," Ms Suitor said.
In the latest survey, the worst performing mobile phone site was the Parkes Urban Morning location - with three people observed illegally using a mobile phone while driving. While the Forbes Highway Afternoon, Parkes Urban Morning and Parkes Urban Afternoon sites all recorded 100% seatbelt wearing compliance.
The next round of observation surveys will be conducted in May 2022.